Manchester Christmas Markets are back, filling the city centre with festive cheer and lots of things to see and do. While we all know how popular the food and drink stalls are at this time of year, it's also a popular time for families to head into the city and join in the festive fun.
This year there are a number of attractions to welcome families with younger children to the city, including the return of the big ice skating rink at Cathedral Gardens. There are also light sculptures and of course Big Santa to seek out as he perches on a giant glittering present.
The council has also introduced a new free entertainment event every Sunday this year with street performers and cute puppets walking the main market areas. This will take place with an array of different artists every Sunday afternoon until December 18.
Here we take a look at some of the key things you can seek out for kids to see and do at this year's Manchester Christmas Markets. We've also added some essential information on dates and opening and closing times for this year's event.
The Christmas Markets themselves are free to attend, but we've included any extra charges activities might carry in the prices below.
Post your letter to Santa
Cathedral Gardens has always traditionally been the more 'family-friendly' zone of the Manchester Christmas Markets. As it's slightly more off the beaten track than the other main zones, you may find it a slightly more pleasant place to be with little ones.
There's the added bonus this year of a cute little section where you can pick up a 'letter' with present requests for kids to write on, and then they can post it into a special Santa post box. It's all set up next to a very large and festive baubled Christmas tree.
This is all set in the small but relaxed food and drink area at Cathedral Gardens this year, which includes the ever-popular Dutch mini pancakes and waffles from £4.50 a portion. There's also a hot sausage and burger stall, Yorkshire pudding wraps from £8 and two different bars with alcoholic and non-alcoholic beverages with prices ranging from £2 for soft drinks up to £5 for gluhwein and £6 for pints.
The other big attraction at Cathedral Gardens is the return of the Skate Manchester ice rink - which is even bigger and better for 2022. It includes a seven-metre high Christmas tree you can skate around, as well as a full indoor rink covered up for whatever the weather throws at us.
There are cute penguin skate aids for younger members of the family or those not too confident on the ice. It's open from now until Christmas Eve, and then will reopen after Christmas up until January 3.
Tickets for Skate Manchester start from £14.50 for adults and £12.50 for children, with discounted family, group bookings and season tickets also available. Skate aids cost an additional £5 each.
New for 2022, this is a brilliant and FREE addition to this year's Manchester Christmas Markets. A range of street performers, stilt walkers and artists will roam the city centre streets across every Sunday afternoon from now until Sunday December 18.
On the opening event last Sunday, we saw fantastic snow fox stilt walkers (pictured above) an Arctic fox puppet that danced along New Cathedral Street, and a colourful Santa brass band that played to an entranced crowd on St Ann's Square.
We're told that in weeks to come we can expect 'living snow globes', bouncing reindeers, Snow Queens, light up bands and living lamp-posts among the line-up. Performances start from 1pm and run at regular intervals across Sundays until 7pm.
While there's no Santa's Grotto specifically on the markets this year, if you look hard enough you may find him knocking about. In particular, up at the Winter Gardens there's a rather large Santa statue for kids to pose up with.
You'll find him at the all-new Dock 53 outdoor bar space this year. There's also some quirky seating options here, including ski-clad booths.
It features a stage here as well, with a regular line-up of music and entertainment during the Christmas Markets. Also at Winter Gardens this year are the new under-cover tipi bars and the magical Windmill bar that entrances young and old.
This is also right next to the small all-year-round play area on Piccadilly Gardens that kids might like a nosey at.
Find even bigger Santa
You can find the biggest Santa of all if you walk down to St Peter's Square. The large moustachioed fellow has resumed his watch over the city from outside Central Library.
It's around a 5 minute walk from Piccadilly Gardens, or you can take the tram to St Peter's Square which stops right alongside him.
There is once again a light trail across the city, with some large lighted ornaments to find as well as the Christmas lights. At Winter Gardens you will find the large light arch, as well as a larger-than-life Christmas bauble.
At Cathedral Gardens there is the large light-up 'Merry Christmas' sign next to the ice rink that is proving very popular for those family selfie moments.
Dates and times for Manchester Christmas Markets 2022
Manchester Christmas Markets officially opened to the public on Thursday, November 10. The main market zones, like Exchange Square, St Ann's Square, King Street and Market Street, will run daily from that point until Thursday, December 22.
The general rule on opening times is that market retail stalls will open daily at 10am and close by 8pm . Food and drink stalls will open at 11am and close by 9pm.
However, Dock 53 with bars at Piccadilly Gardens will have a later closing time in the week 'til 10pm and weekends 'til 11pm (details below).
Cathedral Gardens, where you'll find the Skate MCR ice rink, will re-open after Christmas Day, with food and drink stalls serving through to December 31. The ice rink itself is taking bookings through to January 3. Opening hours for the food and drink stalls here are 11am 'til 9pm .
The Christmas opening hours for Cathedral Gardens are as follows:-
22 Dec - open 11 am close at 9 pm
23 Dec - open 11 am close at 9 pm
24 Dec - open 10 am close at 5 pm
25 Dec - closed for Christmas Day
26 Dec - 31 Dec - open 10 am close at 6 pm
It has also been announced that the Dock 53 Bar at Winter Gardens (the raised platform with stage area closest to Market Street) will have extended opening hours, when the rest of the Christmas Markets have closed. The Council has confirmed this bar will open until December 24 and have a later finish time than others.
Opening times for Dock 53 at Piccadilly Gardens from 10 Nov through to December 24 are as follows:-
Mon - Wed open 11 am and close 10 pm
Thur - Sun open 11 am and close 11 pm
Dec 24 - open 11 am and close 6 pm
- Christmas family-friendly events you can start booking now
- The new and quirky food to try at Manchester Christmas Markets 2022
- Light trails taking place across Greater Manchester for Christmas 2022
- Manchester Christmas Markets - full list of traders
- How much to budget for sausage, beer and gluhwein at Manchester Christmas Markets